Standing poolside at the home of Zoë and Olivier de Givenchy in Beverly Hills, Walt Disney Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger addressed an intimate gathering of Angelenos on Friday about the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, slated to open in 2020.
“When you think about the world today, when you think about the pessimism, the cynicism and the uncertainty … the entertainment business has never been as important as it is today,” said Iger, chair of the Campaign for the Academy Museum, speaking of “the ability to give people a chance to escape, to enlighten them, to make them happy.”
He then added, “There is no better time, not only for the business, but to celebrate the business, which is one of the reasons the museum is being built.”
On the occasion of Renzo Piano’s visit to Los Angeles, Iger invited a select group of Academy Museum enthusiasts to the cocktail party with the Pritzker Prize-winning architect of the 300,000-square-foot showcase for the past, present and future of film.
Just inside the living room, director and producer Ava DuVernay caught up with the museum’s newly appointed director, Bill Kramer. “I’m wildly excited about the museum,” the Oscar-nominated director stopped to tell us. “I’m excited about there being a permanent home for cinematic expression that is inclusive of all kinds and all cultures of people.”
Outside on the patio, four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe, along with his wife, filmmaker Giada Colagrande, listened to the project update. Acknowledging his interest, he said, “I’ve been following the museum’s progress.”
“We’re finally going to have a place in Los Angeles, in the place where movies are made, where people can actually touch Dorothy’s shoes [from ‘The Wizard of Oz’] and see something from ‘Star Wars,’” said Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nia Vardalos. She then joked that if asked, she’d gladly contribute something from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the original or the sequel, “because I steal something from every movie I write.”
In introducing Iger to guests, Olivier de Givenchy said after moving to Los Angeles five years ago, he was surprised to hear there was no museum of motion pictures. “If you come to Los Angeles from anywhere in the world, you want to see something about this industry that has shaped and continues to shape how we see the world,” he said.
Addressing the group, Iger then said the museum has now raised more than 80% of the $388-million goal, “which is no easy task, but we’re getting there.” He called the former Wilshire Boulevard May Co. space, rechristened the Saban Building, “a work of art.” Of the theater in the adjacent sphere, he said, “I think it is going to blow people away. It is a true work of architecture art, and it will become, I believe, a landmark in the years to come.”
The 50 by-invitation guests included Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President David Rubin and the academy’s Chief Executive Dawn Hudson; museum trustees Dominic Ng and Jim Gianopulos; California Film Commission Executive Director Colleen Bell; and filmmakers Bob Simonds, Joshua Grode, Jeremy Zag, Yariv Milchan, Beau Flynn, Mike Medavoy and Miky Lee.
“This is completely different from other museums,” said Piano, whose critically acclaimed portfolio includes the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Whitney Museum in New York, the Beyeler Foundation outside Basel in Switzerland, the Menil Collection in Houston and more. “Cinema is changing all the time. Cinema is a young art — so young, it’s only 100 years old. So, we don’t know what can happen in the next 100 years. This is more than a museum. It’s a laboratory.”
Said Rubin, “If the Oscars broadcast represents our one forward-facing, outward-facing time to focus on films, the museum will take care of the other 364 days.”
Iger dismissed any concerns that the museum’s completion had originally been slated for 2019.
“I’m in the business of opening things,” Iger said in a private conversation. “I find that if you delay something to make something better, and it opens and everybody loves it, no one is ever going to remember that it opened late. But if you rush something to market, and it isn’t quite ready, and it disappoints people, that will stick forever.”